Welcome to Week 2 of our Back to School month. Last week we talked about how to improve your core bookkeeping skills. This week I'd like to focus on the tools we use to get our work done. More specifically, how to get some app-specific training so you can get the most out of the software and services you're using.
Having a good base of bookkeeping knowledge is, well, kind of a big deal, but that alone isn't enough. I often find myself saying that debits and credits are the same, no matter what software I'm using. While that's true, it's a bit oversimplified. It's true that I can pick up most bookkeeping software and quickly figure out how to create an invoice. Most people can. But there's another level you achieve when you truly understand your software inside and out.
Why is this so important?
Great question. I'm glad you asked. If you have to enter a couple transactions into your system, being efficient isn't that big of a deal. As a bookkeeper there are days when I'm entering hundreds of invoices and expenses at a time. If I find a shortcut (keyboard or otherwise) that can shave 5 seconds off of each entry, that's some real time savings by the end of the day. Do that every day, and I've saved myself several hours each week.
What about reports? Maybe you're creating these complicated reports in Excel when your software can do them for you. Sometimes they have a funny way of naming them, so make sure you learn what each one of them does. Good software will also let you customize their reports so they're better suited to your client's needs. A few clicks is a lot quicker than an afternoon creating a report in Excel from scratch. Ok, maybe not as rewarding for you Excel nerds out there, but unfortunately you can't bill your client for your sense of accomplishment.
It also helps out your clients. If all I know how to do is the bare essentials, that's all I'm going to offer my client. When you learn all the bells and whistles provided by your app of choice, you open up a ton of helpful tasks you can use to serve them better. For example, Xero has some half-decent budget tracking. If I didn't know that, or didn't know how to use it, I might not suggest it to my client. Once you have it figured out, you can work with your client to setup a budget. Now each month you can not only show them an Income Statement, but one that shows how they're stacking up against their budget too.
The selection and quality of app-specific resources really varies from app to app. It's not entirely based on size or popularity either. Sometimes it's front and centre on the company's homepage, other times it's either hidden, available only when you login, or only available if you're a bookkeeper or accountant signed up for their special program. Basically...it's a real crapshoot. Here are some different resources available, so you can become an expert on the software of your choice.
1. Go straight to the source.
We'll start off by talking about some of the companies and how they help you learn their own software. They each have a blog and a YouTube channel, but some of them have more resources than others. It seems a bit silly (and redundant) to explain each link. They're pretty self-explanatory.
Xero Small Business Guides
Bookkeepers only: If you sign up to their Partner Program, you get access to some exclusive training. You can also get certified with a
(paid) course and exam.
edit: thanks to Irvin for pointing out that Xero certification is now free
FreshBooks Tutorial Videos
QuickBooks Online Training
QuickBooks Small Business Blog
QuickBooks Online YouTube
Bookkeepers only: Once you're a ProAdvisor, either the paid version w/desktop software or free version for QBO, you get access to lots of extra training, and you can get certified. I discussed these option more in this post about bookkeeper certification.
2. Go to a site devoted to education.
Last week I mentioned 2 paid sites that are great for boosting your bookkeeping knowledge. I don't want to repeat my lists, but it would be foolish to leave these two out.
Lynda: Lynda doesn't cover all of the main services. I couldn't find any courses on Xero, Kashoo, or Wave. However, they have a great FreshBooks Essentials course and several on QuickBooks. There are also courses on MYOB, Quicken, and Excel.
School of Bookkeeping: Since this site is all about bookkeeping, there are courses on quite a few of the most popular apps and services. They've got courses on QuickBooks, Xero, Excel, Sheets, Sage, Bill.com, and more.
But don't worry, there are more.
ScreencastsOnline: Don is the absolute master of screencasts. I've watched several on software I don't even own, and have gone ahead and bought them afterwards. Yes, he's that good. Don gives you a nice overview of both Mac and iOS apps. There are new screencasts available for both platforms each week. It's a paid membership, about $6/month, but well worth the price. Now, this isn't bookkeeper-centric by any means. But I'm pretty sure we don't just use bookkeeping software. If you use OS X or iOS, you'll find something you like.
Udemy: Udemy feels like Lynda without a curator. So, I guess Lynda...without Lynda? The courses seem to cover every topic imaginable. The big difference here is that the instructors create the courses, and set their own prices. A quick search for QuickBooks gives me results that range from free to $297. That really puts the ownness on the creator to put out a good product and market it. I browsed through a few, and I like the fact that they can contain different types of media. One bookkeeping course had videos, a slideshow, and PDF's.
pro tip - My favourite discount/bundle site StackSocial.com, puts together bundles of Udemy courses all the time. I picked up one on software development earlier this year (and I swear I'll get around to it soon) for about $20. It had a "retail" value of hundreds of dollars so if you've got a topic in mind, and some patience, you could hold out for a deal.
3. Find bloggers who are passionate about the topic.
It would be crazy of me (you know, someone who has a blog) to not include a list of people who are writing and talking about this stuff every week. Obviously this isn't a complete list. I try to write about sites I find on a regular basis, so this is just a handful of ones I wanted to highlight today.
homework - If you write about bookkeeping, please connect with me on Twitter. I'm always looking for new blogs, podcasts, etc. that focus on bookkeeping. In fact, I have a Twitter list of bookkeepers and accountants that you can subscribe to. It's a great way to focus on one topic when I'm on Twitter. Otherwise, it's pretty noisy out there.
Small Business Doer - Greg Lam is great at doing video reviews. It's something I've always wanted to add to That Bookkeeper. His blog has lots of great reviews of bookkeeping software. It looks like his last post was back in March. Is that because he's disappeared? No way. He's writing over at The Sleeter Group now. So, once you've finished reading the old stuff, you can go to his author page and read what he's been doing lately.
Scott Gregory: Scott's site, Better Bottom Line is a great site for all things QB. I've been reading his blog for a long time, and I learn something every week. Plus, the title of the blog is Scott Gregory, QuickBooks Expert. So, it's gotta be good, right?
Michelle Long: Long for Success, Michelle's company, has been a go-to site for years. I remember finding her site years ago. Intuit does a rate survey every 2 years. They post a report about the average billable rates across our industry. It's a great report. Michelle always does a wrap up post when they come out. Here's the post from 2013's Intuit rate survey.
Wow! That was a lot of links. If you have RSI issues, please click through these responsibly.
Ok, so we've strengthened our bookkeeping foundation, and we've become experts in our software. What's next? Next week we're going to talk about running our business. Let's see if we can cram an MBA's worth of training into one post. Stay tuned to find out.